MIDDLETOWN SHOWDOWN: Vikings to play Section I's Tuckahoe in state semifinal

RYAN HAYNER/P-R PHOTOMoriah's Braden Swan (32) sheds a tackle from Warrensburg's Dylan Winchell (1) for a score as teammates celebrate behind him during a NYSPHSAA Class D football regional Saturday at Shenendehowa High School.

PORT HENRY — Moriah is Middletown bound.

The Vikings (7-3) are one win away from reaching the state championship and will clash with Section I’s Tuckahoe (9-1) at 5 p.m. today in a NYSPHSAA Class D football semifinal on the turf of Faller Field at Middletown High School.

Fresh off a thrilling 28-22 regional victory over Warrensburg last Saturday that featured an 85-yard pick six from Matt Diehl as time expired in regulation, Moriah wants to keep rolling.

“I do not think in all my years we have had a play like that before to end a game, and it really was a great finish to a very good game,” Vikings coach Don Tesar said.

“The kids are hyped up and excited. We are as ready as we can get.”

The Tigers reached today’s matchup thanks to a 12-6 win against Waterville last Friday, which featured two rushing touchdowns by Michael Meyers, including a 1-yard rush to the end zone that proved to be the game-winner with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Tuckahoe was without starting quarterback Justin Lee who was suspended one game, but the senior will be back under center against Moriah, leading what Tesar expects to be a dynamic offense.

“Getting in tune with what they run is our biggest priority,” Tesar said. “They can run the ball, and they have a quarterback who can throw it. They run a lot of stuff.

“Meyers is a key player for them, and they have some decent size and a lot of speed. We need to make sure we can get to their backs before they get going.”

Lee has passed for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns, and he has rushed for an additional 607 yards and eight more scores on the ground.

Meyers (652, 11 TD) and Draz Prorokovic (575, 3 TD) power the Tigers’ rushing attack, while tight end Jonathan Berger leads Tuckahoe in receiving with a team-high 34 receptions for 623 yards and five touchdown grabs.

The Tigers defeated Haldane, 28-6, in the Section I title game.

The Vikings downed the Blue Devils in last year’s semifinal, and Tesar said experience at this stage of the season is not undervalued.

“That has been a big factor so far, especially, in practice,” Tesar said. "We do not have a lot of guys back from last year who played a lot, but they were on the team and know what to expect.

“Our games last year against Warrensburg and Haldane as well as the state championship are definitely helping us now.

“(The experience) has been a big part of keeping this group together and getting to our ultimate goal.”

The Moriah offense continues to be paced by what has turned into quite the dynamic duo of Maddox Blaise and Braden Swan.

Blaise has 1,820 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns to his name, while Swan has 437 yards on the ground and nine rushing touchdowns.

Swan has caught a team-high 16 passes for 417 yards and nine more touchdowns.

Swan (140) and Blaise (102) rank first and second, respectively, in Section VII scoring.

“Our running game is not something I am too worried about,” Tesar said. “We have been working on throwing a bit more of late just in case we have to. We had to do a little bit of throwing last week to move the ball, and when we did, we moved the ball right down the field.”

The winner of today’s game advances to play Section IV’s Tioga or Section VI’s Clymer/Sherman/Panama in the Class D title game at noon Friday, Nov. 29, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

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Sports Editor

Joey LaFranca is the sports editor at the Press-Republican. He is also a paginator and photographer. He graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2017 with bachelor's degrees in multimedia journalism and newspaper journalism.

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